Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:17 (ESV)
While Jesus was traveling with a crowd, teaching them on the way, he came across the tax booth of a man named Levi (also known as Matthew). He called Levi to follow him, and immediately he left his work and did.
The scandal in this act was Levi’s occupation. Tax collectors in ancient Rome were known to make extra money for themselves through extortion. To be a Jew and a tax collector made you very unpopular, for you would be stealing from your fellow Jews in order to make a living and pay the foreign government occupying your land.
As if this weren’t enough, Levi had a party at his house for coworkers and friends, presumably so they could meet Jesus as well. The religious leaders scoffed and complained, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In a self-righteous manner, they would not lower themselves to dine with such people, and here was the man claiming to be the Messiah?
Jesus’ reply was simple and to the point—he ate with them because they were the ones who needed him.
Often, we followers of Jesus might not have the same sour attitude of the Pharisees and Scribes (though some certainly do), but we can still isolate ourselves away from the people who Jesus came to save. Some people call this the “Christian bubble.” It is when our lives are so filled with time around other followers of Jesus that we never make time to build real relationships with those who are not followers of Jesus. We get so busy with church activities that we can forget we’re called to be ambassadors of light in the world.
On the one hand, we do need regular fellowship with other Christians. They are the ones who can help us avoid falling into the traps of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13) and they are the ones to whom we can confess our sins and find healing through prayer (James 5:16).
But we also need to build relationships with those who don’t know or follow Jesus.
We should not view them as projects. We should not yearn for their conversion as if it is another badge to wear. Rather we should see them as people made in the image of God, living in a world darkened by sin, and in need of the love of Jesus just as we are.
Their beliefs, way of life, and views of the world might be radically different than ours, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends. And just maybe through that friendship the day will come where we can also call them our brothers and our sisters in Christ.
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Image taken and modified from pixabay.com